Scientists Find Mosquito Gene That Could Help Fight Malaria

A team of 28 scientists from four countries has discovered a male-determining gene in the mosquito species that carries malaria. This discovery may lead to methods that aide in the control of diseases such as malaria, Zika and dengue. Male mosquitoes offer the opportunity to develop novel vector control strategies to combat these viruses because males do not feed on blood or transmit diseases.

The development of a vector control method involves genetic modification of the mosquito to bias the population sex ratio toward males who don’t bite with the goal of reducing or eliminating the population. Modeling has shown that engineering a driving Y chromosome is the most effective way to control mosquitoes, as outlined in the researchers’ paper in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences: “Radical remodeling of the Y chromosome in a recent radiation of malaria mosquitoes”.

The genome of Anopheles gambiae, a group of at least seven morphologically indistinguishable species of mosquitos in the genus Anopheles containing some of the most important vectors of human malaria, was sequenced 13 years ago. However, the Y chromosome portion was never successfully assembled.

The researchers used multiple genome sequencing techniques to identify an extensive dataset of Y chromosome sequences and explore their organization and evolution in Anopheles gambiae complex. These included:

  • Single-molecule sequencing

  • Illumina-based sex-specific transcriptional profiling

  • Whole-genome sequencing

They found only one gene, known as YG2, which is exclusive to the Y chromosome across the species complex, and thus is a possible male-determining gene.

If you work in this area of research, check out our new Anopheles gambiae antibodies from the laboratory of Dr. Michael J. Adang at the University of Georgia. These polyclonal antibodies recognize different A. gambiae proteins and are useful for identifying and validating targets for insect control. We also now offer a Zika virus antibody developed by the laboratory of Dr. James E. Crowe, Jr. at Vanderbilt University. Induced by natural infection with Zika virus, this human serum specimen recognizes the Zika virus envelope (E) protein.